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Successful telehealth, overnight

Lehigh Valley Physician Group (LVPG) was in the process of adopting telehealth technology for a small subset of its patients. Then COVID-19 struck.

Suddenly, social-distancing protocols meant that LVPG would need telehealth support for nearly all of its patient encounters—immediately. For a health system with more than eight hospitals and 18,000 employees, this was a considerable challenge.

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Initially, leaders at Lehigh Valley Physician Group (LVPG) had envisioned a relatively modest scope for their rollout of telehealth technology , given that payers did not reimburse for this care generally.

They intended to gradually ease in digital delivery for a small subset of the organization’s high-risk patients , giving staff and leadership ample time to assess and  fine-tune their approach. It seemed like a sound and reasonable strategy. It would not, however, come to fruition.

Like so many other health systems’ strategies, LVPG’s plan was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. As cases mounted and the crisis spread, it became clear to the organization’s leaders that they could no longer afford a gradual deployment of telehealth. If they were to continue caring for even a fraction of their patients, the entire system would need to transition to digital delivery— in a matter of weeks.

To affect such a rapid transition and understand how to best partner with their patients, LVPG’s leaders turned to NRC Health.

NRC Health’s Real-time Feedback and Community Insights solutions would both turn out to be vital sources of strategic intelligence for a technological initiative of unprecedented scope and pace.

LVPG’s leadership was able to:

  • Effectively communicate the value of telehealth treatment, according to specific customer preferences
  • Deploy a concierge service to help patients navigate connectivity issues
  • Evaluate the performance of digital delivery

“One of the most important features of our partnership with NRC Health is that, with NRC’s solutions, we can go beyond the standard question set. As things change—such as the pandemic encroaching on our population—we can target our research into what we’re doing, what their experience is like, and what they’d like to see.”

Jim Demopoulos, SVP and COO, Lehigh Valley Physician Group


Real-time Feedback is a patient-survey solution that reaches 100% of patients within 48 hours of their care episodes. When compared with mailed-in survey modalities, this immediacy drives higher response rates, elicits more complete recollections from patients, and gives leaders instant insights into the experiences offered by their facilities.

A powerful tool on its own merits, Real-time is further enhanced by a suite of augmentations offered by NRC Health, one of which is Community Insights.

Community Insights is NRC Health’s solution for developing and cultivating patient feedback panels. Patients are invited to join Community Insights focus groups immediately after they complete a Real-time survey. This mechanism empowers organizations to quickly—and effortlessly—build robust virtual patient communities.

The approach is also remarkably effective. Rates of enrollment average approximately 30%, a substantial improvement over most in-house efforts, at a fraction of the cost of purchasing panels from an outside vendor.

Perhaps more important than the quantity of enrolled patients is their enthusiasm. A strictly opt-in-based approach ensures that only the most invested patients will join a Community Insights panel—which ultimately leads to more reliable feedback for leaders to act on.


of patients are reached within 48 hours of their care episodes


With these two solutions at their disposal, LVPG’s leaders set out to investigate several issues surrounding the telehealth rollout.

They wanted to know: would LVPG’s patients be willing to use telehealth in the first place? And if they did, would such telehealth experiences be consistent with LVPG’s brand?

Using Community Insights, LVPG’s leaders discovered that 62% of the organization’s patients had no virtual -care experience with LVPG. Individual comments within these
panels suggested that patients would be open to trying digital delivery, but very few expressed much enthusiasm for the idea.

LVPG’s leaders were quick to identify the risk. If patients could not be coaxed to try virtual care for the first time, there was a good chance that a sizeable proportion of them might skip receiving care altogether.

The next step was to determine what underlying factors might deter patients from trying virtual care. In Community Insights panels, they found a simple explanation. Patients reported worries about the reliability of their digital connections.

They raised concerns like, “What will my virtual experience be like?” “Is the technology going to work?” and “Will I actually see my provider, or I will I just be staring at a screen?”

To address these questions, LVPG’s leaders conceived a “connection concierge” service. These concierges would call patients just before their appointments to answer questions, set up LVPG’s patient-portal apps for them, and help them establish a reliable connection.

When LVPG asked its panels if such calls would be reassuring, 66% of patients said yes.

“If we were going to totally redesign our approach, how would that impact patient experience? How would it impact patients’ perceptions of us? And how do we ensure that all 500,000 of our patients continue to get care? Our partnership with NRC Health was enormously helpful in answering those questions.”

Jim Demopoulos, SVP and COO, Lehigh Valley Physician Group


This resounding reply gave LVPG leadership the data to support developing and expanding the concierge service. It was a sizeable undertaking, but the work quickly paid off. After their digital encounters, patients responded to Real-time feedback surveys, and the results were very encouraging.

In the startlingly brief period since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, LVPG’s leaders estimate that 75% of care moved to digital delivery. Despite this sudden transition, Realtime feedback results yielded Net Promoter Score (NPS) averages of approximately 80.

“We received incredible responses. We were overwhelmed with the sheer volume of positive feedback, and it was something we made a point of relaying to our providers. We also heard from our patients that they hoped this telehealth option didn’t go away in the future.”

Leilani Sounders, Patient Experience Specialist, Lehigh Valley Physician Group


It’s clear from patients’ responses that, at LVPG, telehealth services are here to stay. Leadership will continue to use Real-time and Community Insights to hone their offerings, and will use Community Insights comments to develop marketing materials and new strategic initiatives. For LVPG, these solutions are inextricably linked to the organization’s digital future.

“I don’t think there’s any going back on this ability to connect with our patients. And reaching patients in that Real-time interval, where they actually live their lives, has accelerated that kind of interaction for us—it’s an integral part of our plans, going forward.”

Jim Demopoulos, SVP and COO, Lehigh Valley Physician Group


High score yielded by Real-time feedback

For more on solutions from NRC Health,
call 800.388.4264 or visit nrchealth.com/demo.